Culture Wars

Freedom, discrimination and SB 1062

Ilya Shapiro has a great article up at Cato:

The prototypical scenario that SB 1062 is meant to prevent is the case of the New Mexico wedding photographer who was fined for declining to work a same-sex commitment ceremony. This photographer doesn’t refuse to provide services to gay clients, but felt that she couldn’t participate in the celebration of a gay wedding. There’s also the Oregon bakerythat closed rather than having to provide wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies. Why should these people be forced to engage in activity that violates their religious beliefs?

For that matter, gay photographers and bakers shouldn’t be forced to work religious celebrations, Jews shouldn’t be forced to work Nazi rallies, and environmentalists shouldn’t be forced to work job fairs in logging communities. This isn’t the Jim Crow South; there are plenty of wedding photographers – over 100 in Albuquerque – and bakeries who would be willing to do business regardless of sexual orientation, and no state is enforcing segregation laws. I bet plenty of Arizona businesses would and do see more customers if they advertised that they welcomed the LGBT community.

Let’s be clear – the cause for this Bill is that homosexual couples have come after Christians, who have refused to participate in their wedding ceremonies, in the courts. If you are going to use the courts as a weapon to beat your ideological opponents with, don’t be surprised if they want to defend themselves with the law also.

SB 1062 wasn’t like the horrendous Jim Crow laws in the US, where governments forced racial segregation on their populations. In that case, the state was denying freedom of association – businesses were happy to serve their black customers in the same way as their white customers and the government said that was unacceptable and forced them to be racist. As best I can tell, SB 1062 would’ve have just clarified that you can do what you want with your stuff, which is the very basis for all freedom. It doesn’t all religious businesses to take other people’s stuff or hit them; it doesn’t allow them  meddle in the affairs of other businesses – it just allows a religious person to do what they want with their own stuff.

My only quibble with this Bill is that the criteria was based on religion. The State shouldn’t force anyone to provide a service they don’t want to – their reasoning doesn’t matter. If you want to be racist with how you operate your business, that is your right. If you want to refuse to participate in a homosexual wedding ceremony (something I don’t have a problem with but I understand why other Christians do), that is your right. If you don’t want to participate in a Christian wedding ceremony, that is your right. The State has no legitimate authority to tell you what is the ethical use of your own property.

I can appreciate that this might be a bitter pill to swallow for homosexuals and their allies – the US, like many countries, has a substantial history of very real and violent persecution of homosexuals, which should never be forgotten. It is evil when the State picks a minority to target for violence or harassment, or turn a blind eye to private players doing the same. However, two wrongs do not make a right and homosexuals and their allies should police their own when it comes to using the courts or the State as weapons in the Culture War. It is unacceptable in a free society to coerce businesses to provide a service they find unconscionable and whatever its flaws were, SB 1062 stood for those values.

Update: Ilya Shapiro has made another, very excellent, comment.

Can there ever be a political settlement on homosexual marriage?

Homosexual marriage is hitting the headlines yet again today, as MPs will debate changes today to the Marriage Act that would allow homosexuals to get married.

This debate, brought about by Adam Bandt (the Greens MP for Melbourne), has unsurprisingly stirred up anger from church leaders and family organisations; and members of the homosexual community, including Bob Katter’s homosexual brother and former AMA president Kerryn Phelps. For both sides, this issue really transcends the removal of one line from the Marriage Act – it is one front in the ongoing Culture Wars. (more…)